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Healthy vision is a crucial component of a child's development. Most of what we learn in school is based on visual learning activities such as reading, watching educational films and writing. Making sure your child has regular eye exams can make all the difference in their academic performance.
Routine exams can help detect vision impairments such as myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness). Finding your child's vision problems early allows you to correct the issue quickly and make sure they don't fall behind in school.
Vision correction for children is often similar to treatment for adults. Your child's optometrist will likely prescribe glasses to correct your child's condition. For a child, wearing eyeglasses for the first time can be both a physical and social adjustment.
Some children may not like wearing their glasses for various reasons and may prefer to try contact lenses instead. There is no set age at which a doctor will prescribe contacts for a child but there are a number of factors that must be taken into account. When deciding if your child is right for contacts it is important to evaluate their maturity and ability to properly handle the lenses over age alone.
Incorrectly handling contact lenses may cause your child to experience some complications such as eye twitching or infection. If your child appears to have pink eye symptoms such as itching, irritation or pain around the eye they may have an infection and should be examined by a doctor immediately.
Your child's doctor will also check for other conditions that regularly effect children's vision. Strabismus is when both eyes don't look toward the same object together. This is common in newborns, however, true strabismus will not disappear as the child develops like in most cases.
Amblyopia or "lazy eye" is a condition sometimes caused by strabismus. Symptoms usually occur before age six and can include eye strain, squinting to see and headaches. If left untreated, the affected eye can become functionally blind because the vision is so blurry that the brain decides to see only with the dominant eye.
If your child's eyes appear to swing from side to side rapidly, rather than focusing on a person or object, the reason might be nystagmus. There are varying types of nystagmus that can differ in causes and symptoms. If you have noticed involuntary movements in your child's eyes it is best to have them checked by their eye doctor.
Treatments for strabismus, amblyopia and certain other eye movement and focusing problems can be treated through vision therapy. Your eye doctor will determine which type of vision therapy your child may require based on their condition and its severity.
In rare cases, less than one percent of all births, your child may be born with congenital cataracts that could require surgery. Cataracts that cloud the central vision field may impede the development of your child's vision system and should be removed. In this case, cataracts surgery is usually performed when the infant is between six weeks and three months. However, each case is different so your eye surgeon will determine the best time for extraction for your child.
For more information on children's vision, visit AllAboutVision.com's Guide to Children's Vision.